the tentmaker

daily thoughts on the common lectionary

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Location: Sharpsburg, Georgia, United States

"...because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together — by trade they were tentmakers." Acts 18:3. Tentmaker is a title taken by bi-vocational pastors. As such, I am both a pastor and a project manager. I am a pastor of a local congregation of moderate, accepting and affirming people who worship in the Baptist tradition. We call our church "Hope Memorial Baptist" and we are about 40 in number. I am also a project manager of major construction projects for the State of Georgia. My home and church is in rural Coweta County, between Peachtree City and Newnan, with a mailing address of Sharpsburg, Georgia.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Thou Art Incomprehensible!

Matthew 11:25 At that time Jesus said, "I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants;

1 Corinthians 13:8-11 for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.

Philippians 2:12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;

I have written elsewhere about the faith of my youth. It was a simple faith. A faith that was based on simple trust in the interpretation of scripture provided by my pastor and my various Sunday School teachers. We didn't discuss theology at home so when my parents took no objection to things the pastor said in his sermons, I took their silence to be agreement. I say that to make the point that my faith as a youth was, in truth, the "faith of our fathers."

When I went to college and was aquainted with scholastic theology and the diverse understanding of faith, my head swelled up with pseudo-knowledge. The simplistic faith I had learned as a youth growing up in suburban Atlanta, was gone forever.

Jesus warns us that the truths of God are more easily grasped by the simple-minded (infants) than the intellegent. But Paul understands that part of the maturing process is the challenge of first beliefs and the acquiring of a more mature faith when he talks about "putting away childish things." And he echoes my own struggles when he says that we must "work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling."

In his book, Fear and Trembling, Kierkegaard makes the following observation:
I am a shrewd fellow by nature, such, as always, have a great difficulty making the movement of faith though I would not attach any importance in itself to a difficulty which, by overcoming it, brings a shrewd fellow no further than the most ordinary and simple-minded person has already reached without the difficulty.
Again, Jesus, wades in on the subject:
Matthew 18:3 "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

So, you see my dilemma.

Again, Kierkegaard:
Father in Heaven! Thou art incomprehensible in Thy creation; Thou livest afar off in a light which no one can penetrate and if we recognize Thee in Thy providence, our knowledge is feeble and veils Thy splendor, Thou who art incomprehensible in Thy splendor. But Thou art still more incomprehensible in Thy grace and in Thy mercy. What is man that Thou art mindful of him, Thou Infinite One—but even more, what is the son of a fallen race, that yea Thou wouldst visit him, Thou Holy One; yea what is the sinner that Thy Son wouldst come into the world because of him, not to judge but to save, not to make known His own dwelling place so that the lost might seek Him, but in order to seek out that which is lost, having no den such as wild beasts have, having no place on which to lay his head, knowing hunger in the desert, thirst on the Cross. Lord, Father of compassion! What is man able to do for such great benefits; he is not able to give Thee thanks without Thee. Teach us then the humble discernment of true intellegence that, as a broken heart sighs under the weight of its guilt, saying in its sorrow: "It is impossible! it is impossible that God is able to show such compassion," so that the one who appropriates this assurance in faith must also say in his joy, "it is impossible." If death too seemed to separate those who love one another and again they were given to each other, their first cry at the moment of their reunion would be, "it is impossible." And this joyous message of Thy compassion, Father in Heaven, even if man has heard it since his tender infancy, is not for that the less incomprehensible! And even if man meditates on it day by day, it does not become for that less incomprehensible! Was then Thy incomprehensible mercy like that of a man, which disappeared on closer acquaintance, like the happiness of those who loved each other once in days of old incomprehensible (then) but not anymore. O torpid human reason! O guileful earthly wisdom! O cold thought of slumbering faith! O miserable forgetfulness of the cold heart! No, Lord, keep Thou everyone who believes in Thee in the proper humble understanding and deliver him from evil.
I last read the above quote some years ago. I had written then in the margin these words: "Lord, I cannot do it without you. I even need you to have faith in you." 8/23/94.


Blogger HeyJules said...

I even need you to have faith in you."

That is a beautiful sentiment, Tentman. I sure do understand your conflict in all this - especially since I just spent the last year trying to come to terms with all the "biblical learning" I got in my youth. Like you, my parents never questioned or talked about was just accepted.

2/23/2006 12:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some believe Jesus never existed. Asarim is proving them wrong by using the Sudarium (20:7). Have you read the work ?

2/23/2006 12:42 PM  

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